One of my favorite places to go for news about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is Michael Yon’s website. Most reporters do not actually go along with the troops in order to see what is going on but Yon does, and his dispatches are some of the most informative you will ever read about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In his October 30 dispatch, he tells of the deterioration of the war in Afghanistan. One sign of this deterioration is the increase in opium production along with the funding it provides to the Taliban. He also mentions how the increase in opium production is affecting drug use in the United States: “Here at home, there will be more addicts crawling through dark windows robbing houses just as they will in Brisbane, Berlin, London and San Francisco, stealing jewelry to score drugs.” This fits nicely into the myth that the power of drugs cannot be resisted, but the real point is this: if the supply of a particular drug increases, then its price comes down and more of the people who like to take drugs will be able to afford it, which will increase the amount of the drug that is consumed. It is unlikely that the overall number of people who take drugs will increase, but of the number of people who like to take drugs, there will be an increase in consumption.
What is often missed in the discussions of drug abuse is understanding the motivations of people who take drugs. There will always be a certain number of people in the United States and elsewhere who will seek the altered state of consciousness and feeling produced by drugs. What most people do not realize is that if opium becomes scarce, then addicts will turn to other drugs. For example, a person who abuses heroin might turn to alcohol or some other drug if he/she can no longer get heroin. If heroin were suddenly legalized in the manner of alcohol, would there be an increase in use? Yes, but there would also be a collapse in the price as growers would saturate the market with a legal product, which means the Taliban would no longer have a source of funding. The increased use of heroin would also mean there would likely be a decline in the abuse of some other drugs like alcohol.
I know this goes against conventional wisdom relative to drug use, but even if heroin were free and legal, most people would not choose to take it. The cause and cure of drug addiction is not going to be found in the drugs themselves, or the biological affects these drugs have on addicts. The cure is going to be found in the motivations of people. This cure will come from within when people find other things to value in place of their continuing addictions.
Yon further explains: “Kids also are mixing heroin with other drugs such as cocaine, spiking emergency room visits and explaining the rise in drug-related injuries and deaths for middle school students.” This is no doubt happening with some young people, but when heroin is not available, these same young people will likely be found sniffing glue, abusing alcohol, taking the chemical compound MDMA (ecstasy, rave), or using nicotine. All of these behaviors are destructive as well and can also have lethal consequences.
J B Myers
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